Friday, October 12, 2007

Back To Reality

Saturday I got up and looked out of my window at Emily and Dwayne's house. More snow had fallen overnight. They took me to the airport and, needless to say, I had a good cry.

Back in Anchorage there were cars and roads and people and bustle - all the things I had got used to being without in the past week. Marti from the Authors To Schools programme kindly picked me up and took me to my hotel. On the way we stopped off at her house and, as we were driving along her street, there was a moose and her baby casually standing in someone's front garden. I went all the way to the Bush and never saw a moose. Then, in a suburb of Anchorage here were two about 6 feet away from me. I expected to round the corner and see a black bear sitting on a porch with a can of Budweiser and a bag of Cheetos.

I was at the airport at 3.30 the next morning. Checking in with absolutely no voice was good fun. When I got on the plane in Seattle I was starting to feel a little rough. I had the window seat - J. This Spanish (I thought) guy got on and said "I think you're in the wrong seat." "No", I said, "I'm seat J". "I'm H, and that comes after J unless I didn't study well at school." I refrained from saying that yes indeed, he didn't study well at school and just said "G is there, J is here." Had he politely said "Oh, I really wanted a window seat" I would have got up and let him have it. But he was so rude. He was still ranting on when the big sweaty guy in front of me got up and said "She's in J. It's the window seat. That's G over there." Thank you, my knight in sweaty armour.

So, Mr Annoying sat down. Despite the fact that my nose was blocked, the stench of the cheap aftershave that he had apparently bathed in about five minutes before wafted over me a really strong smelling cheap aftershave. There is no suitable simile to describe the fug of gag-inducing Eau De Stink. Oh goodie, 9 and a half hours. By the end of it, I was going to be hallucinating about diving into a swimming pool filled with the stuff. It couldn't possibly get worse. He turned to the guy on the other side of him "I'm from Sicily." Excellent. I had seriously pissed off a mafia don. There would be no sleep for me just in case I woke up with a horse's head on the headrest next to me.

I had a look at the list of films I could watch. Very unlike me I chose a horror film. Now, I'm not good with horror so I seldom watch it. I'll admit it, I'm a wuss. But the listing had a film called 1408, based on a Stephen King film, and starring John Cusack. Now, I like John Cusack and I thought "OK, I'm on a plane with 600 other people, the screen is 2 inches square, I'm sitting next to a man who smells like a sewer - how scary can this film be?" So I started to watch it, and it was pretty good. Not too scary although I did squeak a couple of times. They brought the food round, I carried on watching. They came to collect the trays. My eyes were glued to the screen. I lifted up my tray to pass to the air stewardess as she came round. Something really REALLY scary happened in the film. Well, what else could I do? I shrieked (which luckily came out a mix between croak and squeak), and flung my tray up in the air. Bits of food, plastic cutlery, cups, little plastic trays, and a roll which was so hard I could have battered my seatmate to death with it, flew into the air. Sadly, what goes up must come down. And it did. All over Don Smelleone and the couple in the row in front. They were picking bits of pasta out of their hair for the rest of the flight. Whoops.

So, that was the end of my wonderful vacation. I had the time of my life. So many special memories, so many friends made, so many new experiences. The scenery was breathtaking, but even that was dwarfed by the amazing experience I had in the Bush. I loved speaking to the children in the schools and came home with a huge bag full of drawings and stories. I have a few of them stuck to my fridge and will be rotating them regularly. I left some money as prizes in a writing competition and I've already had a few entries - some of them really good.

Apart from the trip being a lot of fun, I learned so many things - including that you can eat brown bears but not black bears, that I need more practice driving an ATV, that I can embarrass myself by crying every day, that ice cream made of fish and Crisco tastes delicious, and that the duct tape holding in the window of a plane doesn't need to be scary. Mostly, I learned that I would love to go back to Alaska one day, and if I do, I will definitely be going back to Aniak, Kalskag and Sleetmute.

Thank you to everyone for bearing with me and reading my nonsense, and for your comments either here or via e-mail. It's been a lot of fun, and almost made me wish I kept a regular blog. I shall be updating the blog at least once more, mid November time, just to report on the competition and updates on things happening in the Bush - I'm keeping in touch with as many of the teachers and children who can put up with me. If anyone wants me to let them know when the post goes up (or if you just want to say hi), please e-mail me at donnaem at gmail dot com.

Until then, I shall leave you with some more photos of gorgeous scenery, friends made, and the wonderful teachers and children of the Kuskokwim River villages.



Barbara said...

Donna, I've really enjoyed your trip! Thanks for managing a blog while doing so much (and getting sick, and pissing of mafia dons and whatnot).

I'm sure the children whose classes you visited will remember you for the rest of their lives. In a good way. :o) Who knows, one may someday dedicate a book to you.

Yvonne said...

Donna, while I am relieved that you're home safe and sound and in Scotland (you know me, I worry), I will certainly miss your reports from the bush. Unless I missed something, you never actually SAW a bear, did you? Take it from me - I've seen any number of bears, including two in my kitchen once, eyeing the bacon and eggs, but what you've seen and done is far, far more substantial and longer lasting than any glimpse of a large and furry beast hoping for a sandwich.
Thanks once again for writing it for us to share.


Donna said...

Barbara - it was fun - I've really enjoyed doing it and means I don't need to bore everyone with my tales because they can hurriedly say "It's OK Donna, I've seen it on your blog." I still try, mind you :o) I'm getting loads of e-mails from the children - it's lovely.

Yvonne - glad you enjoyed it. Are you SURE that was a bear in your kitchen and not just a really really hairy man? And no, I never saw a bear. Not even a really really hairy man...

Paulie Walnuts said...

I've seen that film Room 1408, its great isn't it. really keeps you guessing...but its made me wonder something.
Did you really go to Alaska? or were you having a 'room 1408' experience and just thought youd been. you might have been stuck in your 'wee' little flat in Glasgow all this time after tripping over your shoes (of which there are plenty) and just been comatose in your front room all this time. I mean...come on, do you really expect us to believe you had a bare knuckle fight with a bear, dived into the river and hand caught salmon and even had enough time to teach a few kids, fall off an ATV and eat 157 packets of Cadburys animal biscuits?....i mean really!!!'ll wake up in a minute and realise the tv's still on from 3 weeks ago..

what next?...flying tree monkeys in the butterfly exhibition at the Glasgow Museum..!!

Paulie Walnuts

Donna said...

Gawd, you DO exaggerate Mr Walnuts...It was 156 packets, NOT 157.

It's still there you know - the hairy 2 foot wide butterfly. I went a few weeks ago and got the giggles all over again.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Donna: Shame on me for taking so long to get back to your blog. What an adventure you had. The pictures are great! The stories are precious. The tears were well shed. You are so lucky. I am sure the kids got as much from you as you got from them. However, it appears there are no bats in Alaska. Take care and live in peace, Gary Warren Niebuhr

Dana said...

Oh, Donna. We really sent the right person out there. One day, I hope not too long from now, some young man or woman from Aniak or Kalskag is going to publish a novel about life on the Kusko, and it will be because one day a writer came to their school and told them they could be a writer, too.

Dana Stabenow

Donna said...

Gary - glad you enjoyed. And you're totally right about the bats. As well as being totally bats :o)

Dana - thank you - what a lovely thing to say. Thank you for the opportunity - I REALLY appreciate it.